Posted in Arts, Top Arts

Andy Shauf is early to The Party

The Polaris-nominated album features a focused sound and plenty of clarinet

Andy Shauf explores the story of a party in a "city the size of a dinner plate." The narrow focus of the album gives it a curated feel.
Andy Shauf explores the story of a party in a "city the size of a dinner plate." The narrow focus of the album gives it a curated feel.
Image Credits: Philippe Mazzoni

Canadian-born and raised Andy Shauf has stunned both listeners and critics with his new album, The Party. An older, more refined sibling to his previous album, The Bearer of Bad News, this story-filled folk-pop album led him to a spot on the shortlist for the Polaris Music Prize.

“That was super exciting,” Shauf noted regarding the prize. “I followed the Polaris for a really long time, so it was exciting. I was kind of surprised they found my album.”

The album is really quite a standout — it features varying narratives from a number of perspectives at a party in a “city the size of a dinner plate.” His music tends to excel in capturing small-town vibes. “When I’m picturing the narrative I’m picturing it at home,” said the Saskatchewan native. “For The Party, for a lot of it, I was picturing different scenarios actually happening in my own living room.”

Shauf elaborated that this storytelling style was inspired by Randy Newman: “A song that’s about him seems like it’s fictionalized.”

The particular theme of an album narratively taking place within a small-town party came from Shauf’s more focused approach to the album. His previous album, The Bearer of Bad News, was whittled down to the perfect 11 songs out of a whopping 100. The Party, on the other hand, was carefully curated to feature 10 out of 15 potential songs.

Shauf explained that the varied approaches were due to a lack of time pressure for Bearer. He was “searching for a sound, trying to figure out what to do with it while writing.

“During The Party I had an idea of what I wanted it to sound like and then eventually I came up with a theme for the songs. I was more focused and knew what I wanted to do.”

Shauf’s focused sound hones in on the clarinet and showcases the warm qualities of an often forgotten instrument in modern music.

“I saw a show of a friend’s band that I was seeing and they were playing clarinet. I was like, whoa, that has such a nice texture, so I asked my mom to buy me one for Christmas one year. It was a super hard instrument to learn, but eventually I figured out. So now I just use it because it’s the most interesting instrument I play.”

The clarinet compliments beautiful string arrangements, tinkling piano on top of charming guitar, and soft vocals that listeners can catch live as Shauf will be making an extended stop in Vancouver on October 14 and 15 at the Fox Cabaret as part of his North American tour.